Local news sites blocked
Jordanian government blocks access to 291 news websites.
The memo from Fazey Shawabkeh, the head of the Press and Publications Department, to Mohamed Azzat Ta’ani, the head of the Telecommunication Regulatory Commission, was short and to the point. Access to news websites that had not obtained a government licence must henceforth be blocked.
Shawabkeh at first denied issuing the order but it was confirmed later the same day by the government news agency Petra, which quoted a statement by the Press and Publications Department giving its grounds for blocking the sites:
"The blockage was not meant to restrict freedoms. Is regulation and law enforcement and abidance a restriction? The ultimate goal of this action is to regulate the work of these websites and protect them, and not allow those outside the media profession to claim they are journalists and take the role of journalists, which is highly respected."
Article 49 of the amended version of the 1998 Press and Publications Act requires all online publications to register with the authorities. When the latest amendments were published by royal decree in September 2012, many news sites refused to register as a protest against what they regarded as a threat to their independence and freedom.
When the Press and Publications Department issued its memo on 2 June, the Telecommunication Regulatory Commission immediately complied, instructing Jordan’s Internet Service Providers to block access to the 291 sites that had not yet obtained a licence.
Independent news websites expressing political views have grown in number and popularity in recent years. Sarayanews, one of the blocked sites, has more online readers that the leading pro-government daily newspapers such as Al-Rai and Al-Dustour.
The source of news and views that stray from the official line, these websites have become the one of the main bugbears for the government, which has repeatedly tried to control and censor online publications. Hence the latest version of the Press and Publications Act, adopted in September, and the decision to block the 291 sites.
The decision came two weeks after the International Press Institute held its annual world congress in Amman from 19 to 21 May, during which Jordanian Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour praised the role played by the media and claimed that the protection of freedoms, including media freedom, was one of the priorities of his government’s ongoing reforms.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation said the Jordanian authorities seem to have deliberately waited until after the congress to block the websites.
The ISPs are for the time being used domain names to block the sites (DNS blocking). So far, not all of the sites have been blocked and the IPSs may eventually use a more drastic form of blocking, such as IP blocking.
Reporters Without Borders wrote an open letter to King Abdullah on 12 June asking him to lift the blocking on these websites.
Below, we are posting the complete list of websites earmarked for blocking, Fazey Shawabkeh’s memo and the Telecommunication Regulatory Commission’s directive to the ISPs, ordering them to block the 291 listed websites. These documents were first published by 7iber.com, and we thank them for their cooperation.
Please contact us if you would like to help translate any of these documents.